Switching electron properties on and off individually

phys.org | 9/22/2013 | Staff
roxy2707 (Posted by) Level 3
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Properties of complex materials are often determined by the interplay of several electron properties. TU Wien (Vienna) has now succeeded in disentangling this mess.

Only at extremely low temperatures does order prevail. At the Vienna University of Technology, materials are cooled to almost absolute zero, so that electrons, which otherwise occupy different states quite randomly, show certain regularities. But even the behavior of such extremely cold electrons is difficult to understand, on the one hand because the electrons strongly influence each other and cannot be described separately, and on the other hand because different electron characteristics play a role at the same time. However, the understanding is now made easier by experiments at the TU Vienna: It was possible to influence different characteristics of the electrons separately from each other. Closely interwoven quantum phenomena can thus be understood individually. The results have now been published in the journal PNAS.

Imagine - Bag - Chess - Pieces - Chess

Imagine we have a big bag of chess pieces that you place on a chess board one after the other until it is full. There are different ways to create ordered patterns: For example, you can always place a white and a black piece alternately. You can also ignore the colors and alternately place a knight and a rook, or think up more complicated order patterns that combine color and figure type.

It is similar with electrons in a solid: As in a chessboard, there are regularly arranged places where electrons can sit. And like chess pieces, electrons have different properties that can be used to create order.

Property - Electrons - Charge—it - Flow - Charge

"The simplest property of the electrons is their charge—it is responsible for the flow of electric current. However, the charge is the same for all electrons," says Prof. Silke Bühler-Paschen from the Institute of Solid State Physics at the TU Vienna. "Things become more interesting if we...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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